Madam Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to once again speak to Bill C-206. For those who are just catching the debate tonight, this bill would make an amendment to the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act and specifically broaden the definition of what a qualifying farm fuel would be. In this case, it is about adding natural gas and propane to the definition. This is important, as I will elaborate later on, because propane and natural gas are two fuels that are quite important to farmers for specific uses.
As I made mention in my second reading speech on the bill, it is also important to underscore the challenges that will be faced by our agricultural sector in the decade ahead from the effects of climate change.
I have heard from farmers both in my own riding and at committee about how they are on the front lines of climate change. I represent a rural riding. The riding of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford is roughly 4,700 square kilometres in size. It is a beautiful piece of real estate on southern Vancouver Island. Also, the Cowichan Valley has a very long and storied history in agriculture. We are very proud of the climate we have, which allows us to grow an abundance of amazing produce and fruit. I know the farmers here are very cognizant of the effects of climate change just as they are right across Canada.
It is important that when we are crafting policy, we keep in mind what is going to be the greatest challenge of the 21st century and we really start to focus our efforts on combatting this great threat. It is not just having environmental concerns, not just causing environmental damage, but it is going to have significant impacts on our future tax dollars. The amount of money that we are going to have to pay out of future tax revenues in dealing with the damage from climate change, in trying to adapt to it and mitigating its effects, is going to grow if we do not significantly reduce our emissions. I understand the purpose of carbon pricing and I, for one, am absolutely in support of it.
I also want to acknowledge that too often in debate farmers are treated as bystanders and that is a gross mistake. Farmers are not only very well aware of what the effects of climate change will be, but are also one of our greatest tools in fighting climate change.
I have heard some of my colleagues make mention in their speeches on how good agricultural practices can be a major source of carbon sequestration. We need to take carbon out of the atmosphere where it causes havoc and put it into the soil. When we put it into the soil, we have healthier soil, we need less input through better agricultural methods and we get better yields. We also have soil that is better able to withstand droughts, flooding and it just builds a resilience into the system. There is nothing but positives with healthy soil management.
We have to look at those agro ecological practices and regenerative farming techniques. I am glad our committee is engaged in this study, but we really need to focus federal government policies, and I acknowledge the budget is starting to do that, on making this a priority and putting farmers front and centre as one of our greatest allies in combatting this threat.
I want to take time to acknowledge the important work that our agricultural sector is already doing and the potential it has not only in renewable energy generation and the significant possibility on farms of harnessing the wind, the sun and biomass, but also what farmers are doing with their careful soil management.
The bill is back before us after spending some time at the agriculture committee. I have been a proud member of that committee for over three years now, and I will echo the previous speaker's comments. It is a wonderful committee of which to be a part. We are probably the most non-partisan committee in the House. A lot of what we do there is reached by consensus, and it is always a very respectful dialogue.
I think every member of the committee realizes that no matter what our partisan political stripe is, we all represent farmers in our ridings. We have New Democrats, Conservatives, Bloc members, Liberals and Green Party members. We all recognize the importance of the sector, not only to our individual ridings but to our country as a whole.
It was one of those rare moments when we as a committee finally got to study a bill, and we did a thorough job in investigating Bill C-206. We had six meetings and heard from 29 witnesses, and eight briefs were submitted. These witnesses included quite a variety of people from across the spectrum. We got to hear from several federal departments, the David Suzuki Foundation, the Canadian Canola Growers Association, the National Farmers Union, Farmers for Climate Solutions and the Grain Growers of Canada, just to name a few.
I have heard a lot of the debate about the intention of the carbon price. It is meant to establish a price signal to encourage people to change their ways to a less expensive and more environmentally friendly method. The focus of today's debate is the subject of grain drying, because that is where propane and natural gas are used quite frequently.
I mentioned this in my second reading speech, but it was confirmed time and time again: If the intention of the carbon price is to change behaviour, we need a viable alternative that we can change our behaviour to. I only recently made a switch to a zero-emission vehicle, and I know that many people in my riding of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford are doing the same. They made the switch because there is a price signal. It is a lot cheaper to operate a zero-emission vehicle, an electric car, than it is to operate a gasoline-powered one. However, they also made the switch because there were viable alternatives. We have so many options to choose from in the zero-emission vehicle market right now that it is quite easy, especially with government rebates, to find something that is practical for day-to-day use.
When it comes to grain drying and alternative technologies, farmers do not have that option. We did hear that there are some emerging technologies with respect to electric heat pumps and possibility the use of biomass from crop residue. However, we also heard that those technologies are still many years away from being commercially viable and efficient enough to actually replace natural gas and propane. If we have no viable alternative to force farmers into and are simply levying a carbon tax on their activities, the price is not going to do what it is intended to do.
I do respect the fact that the government is offering rebates, which I think were placed in the budget on page 174 in response to Bill C-206. Bill C-206 did have an impact, I guess, in helping to rewrite a part of the budget. However, we did hear from farmers that they would prefer not to have the price in there at all until we have viable technologies.
That brings me to the amendment. I would like to thank members of the committee, because the one and only amendment that was passed to the bill was brought forward by me. I was trying to find a reasonable halfway point between the two sides to this argument by establishing a sunset clause of 10 years, after which the definition in this bill will revert to the original. I felt that 10 years was a long enough time to allow for these emerging technologies to become commercially viable so that hopefully by the year 2031 farmers will have a choice to go to. I think that is incredibly important when we put it in the context of carbon pricing.
I would like to thank my colleagues again, reflecting on what a joyful committee it is to be a member of, for agreeing to the amendment and allowing us to get to a stage where hopefully we will see the bill passed in the House and sent to the other place.
In conclusion, I think we need to remember, as has been detailed by the National Farmers Union, that Canadian farm debt has nearly doubled since the year 2000. It is made up of billions of dollars and, increasingly, farmers are paying more and more money in fertilizer costs, machinery fuels, new technologies, credit services and so on. They are really only left with a very small portion of gross farm revenues. I think the measure contained in Bill C-206 is going to help them out, and it gives us an opportunity to give them some price relief on a very important aspect of their business.
I appreciate the time. I look forward to hearing other speeches on Bill C-206.